Resources for Speaking Cantonese
What is it and Why Would You Even Want to Learn it?
You might not even be able to tell the difference at first but Cantonese sounds vastly different to Mandarin. If you’re unsure as to what Cantonese even is or what it sounds like, this is a great introduction to the language and how Cantonese sounds compared to Mandarin.
When I was back in England, I had no intention of learning Cantonese but when I met my wife and moved to Hong Kong, I decided to dedicate the first two years learning Cantonese and then I gradually refined it over the years. it isn’t perfect but being conversationally fluent makes life way easier. Honestly, even if you’re only here for a couple of years, do yourself a favour and learn Cantonese, it will enrich your experience of Hong Kong.
You Can Do It!
When I first searched for Cantonese YouTubers there weren't very many but I kept coming across one name — Gregory Rivers AKA Ho Kwok Wing. If you need inspiration for learning Cantonese, this guy is a pretty good place to start. After all, keeping inspired is really part of the game when learning a language and YouTube can be an awesome resource for this.
There are a couple of YouTubers I followed back in the day that helped me and taught me a few things along the way. Some of them still going, some of them not. In particular, I enjoyed CarlousDouh as he has a pretty funny take on learning Cantonese and it’s a great way to learn some relevant Cantonese slang that people still use today. Sadly, he doesn’t produce any more videos but the ones he has up are a great resource for learning Cantonese.
Let’s have a look at some audio options. Personally, I have to start with the one that I used to get me on my Cantonese journey and that’s Pimsleur's Cantonese. I started learning all the way back in 2007 so I ended up ordering a copy of their CD from their website but now all of the that's changed. I enjoyed using the Pimsleur method because of its repetitive nature. It really slows the audio down so you can listen to it and have a stab at pronouncing the words properly.
One I used as an intermediate learner is CantoneseClass101.com which I really enjoyed but found there pricing to be on the steeper side. It’s a shame because I really liked their content. They cover all learner levels and their material is interesting and fun. Sidenote: They have a youtube channel that’s a great way to get started and the material is great! (and free, too)
A resource I really liked to get an understanding of Cantonese grammar patterns is Basic Cantonese: A Grammar and Workbook. They actually have a beginner and intermediate one that really helps you get an idea of the mechanics of the language in a simple, easy to understand way. Such a great companion to have when learning Cantonese.
Teach Yourself Cantonese (now out of print) is one of the first books I bought about learning Cantonese which I picked up in England and brought with me to Hong Kong, but it seems an updated version has been printed by the same author (Hugh Baker). I enjoyed the original and believe this updated versionwill be an improvement on the outdated text.
Once you have a bit of experience under your belt, I would recommend looking out for About Hong Kong: for Intermediate Cantonese Learners. I like this book because it really stretches you into new territories covering topics like society, culture, school-life, etc. These topics won’t be much use to a beginner but would be great for someone who has a basic mastery of the language and is looking to push themselves a little further.
There is only one App that I keep on my phone, even now, that I actually use and it’s called Bravolol: Dictionary and Translator. Some people use it more for learning to write (which it’s also great for) but I just use it to aid my spoken language. What I really like about it is that you can choose the Chinese voice to be set to Cantonese, Mandarin or Taiwanese. If you fancy learning more than Cantonese, you’ve got options! Sadly, overall, I find that the Appstore still lacks good apps to teach you Cantonese in a systematic, fun way.
I hope you found this little writeup helpful! Please do let me know if you find any cool resources out there so I can include them here. Thanks, folks!